After watching all NFC teams competing for a wild card spot win yesterday (despite most of them being in danger of losing at some point), the Giants had what was almost a must-win against the team with the best record of the NFL. After being massively outplayed in the first half on the field but not the scoreboard, they put it together in the second half combining a dominant defensive effort with a mediocre offensive effort highlighted by one great Odell Beckham play, to beat the Cowboys 10-7 in front of a stadium that sold approximately a quarter of its tickets to Cowboys fans.
Random thoughts on special teams:
Love OBJ on punt returns but let’s do it against punters without good hang times. With no room to run, why risk it? But when he is given time he will break one.
Not opening on the character issues with Josh Brown but Giants passing on a 40 something yard field goal attempt in the first half was a reflection of their understanding of the difference between Robbie Gould and Josh Brown.
I didn’t understand why Dallas punt returns lines up only 40 yards from line of scrimmage when Brad Wing punted. He kept kicking it over their heads which left them with backwards momentum when trying to catch the ball.
Thoughts on the defense last night:
Olivier Vernon looked solid for the first half of the season. We were told he had some sort of wrist injury which has subsequently healed. I would say that his play over the last 6 weeks has been spectacular including last night. Tyron Smith is a top 5 NFL tackle and he won that battle convincingly. He is amazingly justifying that enormous contract.
The game from Okwara was a very good game. Anyone watching in pre-season (the last time he got real PT) would not be shocked and we got on his bandwagon early. He is clearly no JPP –especially against the run- but his strong game, if followed up with others in the coming weeks could hurt the negotiating power of JPP this off season. I believe JPP bleeds blue and would love to return but with the money already invested in Vernon and Harrison on that line and potentially Hankins too, it will be a tough keep unless he provides a home team discount.
Vernon is on T the only free agent signee performing well. ‘Jackrabbit’ Jenkins has been a true shut down corner and his dominance of Dez Bryant was likely the biggest contributor to the win. Lastly, ‘Snacks’ Harrisons run stuffing has changed the entire defensive front.
I am still perplexed by the lack of playing time that DRC gets. He is still playing great ball. Is this really all about preventing injury? I can even understand having a strong performing Eli Apple ahead of him in base defenses as the gap is minimal, but the fact that Sensabaugh gets playing time as the third CB on first and second downs is perplexing.
I’m not sure if the return of Justin Pugh next week will move the needle enough in terms of the play from the line but the Giants running game just can’t seem to get going and can’t keep defenses honest. Odell will never see single team coverage and defenses don’t have to. There is just no run game to respect –especially when you have a middle linebacker like Sean Lee. He is truly amazing. I’m not sure of his free agency status but I’d love to see the giants come after him.
Dak Prescott has obviously been amazing but he plays with a great running game and the best offensive line in football. It’s hard to imagine that Tony Romo would have struggles the way Dak did last night. Dak has had it easy and never really had to come from behind against a good defense to prove himself.
Offensively, it is still a bit of a mystery to me why the offense would be this much worse than a year ago with virtually identical players other than the upgrades at wide receiver. One possible explanation is that the defense has been watching the Giants offense which has become more predictable. It seemed that every time Manning called an audible at the line, Dallas called their one play in reaction to it and left them in better position to defend the play. Also, the best quarterbacks are always good at looking off of the primary receiver to move the safeties or linebackers. I recall getting to watch Brett Favre in his one NY season and he was amazing at that. Manning doesn’t seem to be able to do that anymore. I’m not sure if his lack of confidence in the time his line will allow him plays into this but he targets his primary receiver from the snap. That is one of the reasons he is particularly poor at screen passes where always telegraphs the play ahead of time. His accuracy seems to have declined as well. He is getting older so a slip in performance shouldn’t be a shock, but it is one possible explanation for the offensive struggles.
What a difference a few weeks makes. Suddenly the Giants are on a win streak and find themselves at 6-3, with upcoming games against the struggling Bears and Browns and already currently positioned as a Wild Card. The defense is gelling and the offense is doing enough to outscore the opponents. The free agents have performed well and the rookies have been solid, but not spectacular. Landon Collins in year is materially improved and is a shoo-in for a pro bowl selection. Even their 3 losses were to the Redskins, where the Giants outplayed them and to the then-hot Vikings and Packers, who they just caught at the wrong time.
That is the good news. The bad news, if you want to be pessimistic is that the 6 wins are by a combined 21 points, most of them in games that could have gone either way. In fact, the biggest difference between this year and last year is their performance in these close could go either way games. Last year’s 6-10 could have been 10-6. This past week the Giants rushing stats looked good. However this was misleading as they could not run most of the game and most runs went for 2 yards or less. Three good runs accounted for most of the positive yardage and that is not indicative of a true improvement in the running game. The Giants’ offensive line is just not that good. They are especially poor on the run and their sacks allowed stat is good but slightly misleading as Eli Manning just throws the ball very quickly and that is why it’s usually not very far down field. That is why Beckham has had little success with long pass plays this year.
I’m almost disappointed that Jennings ran well on Monday night against the Bengals because that will lull the coaching staff into a false sense of security as to his skills. He doesn’t make people miss. Darkwa happened to have been given his chance specifically when they played two of the best run defenses in the Packers and the Vikings. I’d still love to see him get another chance.
One reason for bullishness is that the Giants do actually seem to be learning to play with each other on defense and actually getting better. Their offense still seems to have more untapped potential but they will have to figure out how to get a semblance of a rushing game. I still wish they had drafted Tunsil. It would have made a bigger difference to the team than Apple.
This coming week I expect a Giants victory. The defense is playing well, and they catch a Bear team that will be without their best receiver due to an Alshon Jeffery suspension. The Giants offense may still struggle but look for a 20-13 victory.
The Giants play the Redskins this weekend at Met Life stadium.
It would have been a competitive game in DC, but in NY it should be no contest. The skins are a mess having started 0-2 against a very good Steelers team, and a mediocre at best, Dallas team. Cousins is likely regretting having turned down a long term contract and the Skins management is likely relieved that they chose not to offer top tier money off of such a small sample size.
The Giants defense will shut down the Redskins ground game and pressure Cousins into mistakes on long third down conversions.
On offense, the Giants will still struggle to run the ball but Eli will have much better luck this week converting yards into scores. When an offense throws for 368 yards and only punts twice all day as happened against the Saints, you would expect a lot of points. That conversion rate will revert to the mean, and the Giants will score 24 points in a 24-17 victory over the Redskins.
The interesting story of the day will of course be OBJ going up against Josh Norman. Of course, as we learned last week, if a defense pays too much attention to OBJ, Sterling Shepard will run wild. I can see them both eclipsing 100 yards this week.
The Giants outplayed the Saints on Sunday and won, but those two facts were coincidental to each other.
The Giants had a missed field goal and 3 drives inside the Saints 10 yard line translating into only 6 points, and added 3 turnovers on fumbles. This could have been a 3 score victory as opposed to a close game that came down to a play or two at the end.
The Giant defense was excellent in holding the normally prolific, Drew Brees led Saints offense to 13 points. They were once again tough to run on and Brees and the passing game couldn't get much done. With the luxury of Hall as a 4th Cornerback and Apple playing well, DRC is being saved for third downs and playing about half the game to keep him fresh and not injured.
On offense they couldn't run the ball. While Jennings is a mediocre runner there really weren't many holes to run through. The pass protection was adequate but that's largely a function of a passing game that gets rid of the ball very quickly. Newhouse reverted to what we knew he was. In what may be a blessing, he got hurt late and may not play against Washington.
The rookie Sterling Shepard had a great game taking advantage of the extra attention paid to Beckham. Beckham didn't have a great game dropping two TD passes but his presence still helps open things up for Shepard and Cruz. Cruz had the catch of the game and also showed some explosiveness on a long catch and run where he eventually fumbled. He did make a mental error when he went out of bounds before the two minute warning but bailed himself out with his clutch 34-yard catch that essentially clinched the game.
The good news is that the defense seems to be real and the off season acquisitions are major contributors. With a weak schedule and 2-0 start they are well on pace to their first playoff appearance in a few years.
The Giants won an exciting back and forth game against the injury depleted division rival Cowboys on Sunday. It was good, both because it was a road game and because division games count more. Romo will be back eventually and they will try to make a run but hopefully for the Giants sake it will be too late. Some of the things we saw from the Giants were telling, while others were deceiving.
The Giants ability to shut down the run against talented rookie Ezekiel Elliot and the Cowboys offensive line was very telling. The Giants line is arguably the best in the NFL. The soft first half pass rush was modestly improved in the second half but still didn’t produce a sack. Again, given the strength of the Dallas O line, it’s not something that is very worrisome. They should do better against lesser competition going forward.
Another definite highlight was the play of the new Reese’s Pieces – GM Jerry Reese’s offseason free agent and draft acquisitions. As we had projected, they were a great addition, especially reshaping a poor defense into a good one.
On the other hand, I’m still not convinced that generally solid play of the offensive line was legit. The reality is that for most of the game, running yards were hard to come by. Only at the end did they turn a mediocre day into an acceptable day, stats wise, by getting some good blocks on a tired defensive line that is missing a number of suspended players and would by anyone’s estimation rank as one of the worst lines in the NFL. As much the play of the D line was telling, the play of the O line is not particularly compelling. I still believe they will have ongoing issues against tougher teams (which they may not face until they play the Vikings) and that eventually Beatty will replace Newhouse.
Lastly, while McAdoo overall called a very good game. Specifically, he made halftime adjustments, and he stuck with a running game that was slow to get going early on and that eventually paid dividends. Two complaints I had were his poor clock management at the end of the first half (he should have used one of his timeouts a play earlier), and his decision to take a 10 yard holding penalty and negate a play that would have been a 5 yard loss. Neither came back to hurt the Giants but they could have.
The pre-season, as meaningless as it usually is, was certainly an interesting one. It helped to answer some questions that had been lingering since the draft and free agency period. Last year, the Giants offense played reasonably well despite poor line play and defense was horrific primarily because of poor line play.
The Giants chose to materially address their defensive line and did not do anything to address their offensive line.
Both of these decisions have shown up in their pre-season production. The Giants starting defense was borderline dominant in the pre-season.
Olivier Vernon at age 25, their big free agent acquisition, looks to be coming into his prime and could have a huge year, both against the run and the pass.
Hankins looks back to pre-injury form, and a healthier (but still impaired JPP) looks to be back to something in between his pre-injury and post injury levels. Even his post injury self, last year was better than the headline number (1 sack) would indicate. Lastly Damon “Snacks” Harrison is an elite run stuffer which will help both against the run and the pass (when 3rd and 3 becomes 3rd and 7).
The cornerbacks are good and with rookie Eli Apple are legitimately 3 deep, despite the fact that drafting him so high was a mistake. The safeties should be much better for a few reasons. Collins, should make a leap in year 2 as his know-how catches up with his physical abilities. He should also really benefit from playing the strong safety position near the line as opposed to the miscast free safety he was forced to play last year. 3rd round pick Darian Thompson looks like a winner at the free safety, and Nat Berhe rotating in after coming back healthy from a missed 2015 will add to the mix.
Offensively the Giants are feeling the mistake of not drafting Laremy Tunsil over Eli Apple. They are desperate for help on that line. Newhouse and Jerry are not starter quality and Flowers has not been able to add technique to good physical skills. Pugh and Wesburg are very good but not enough to make a line. There is hope that the act of desperation in bringing back Will Beatty gets the Giants improved to a level of mediocrity at right tackle, but he hasn’t been healthy enough to get on the field since 2014 and just got signed too recently to even start in game 1. In the pre-season the line looked even worse than last year. They couldn’t block at all and Rashad Jennings actually had more negative than positive runs, a feat hard to accomplish.
The good news is that the Eli is still Eli in an offense that was made for his skills. He had a great year last year and that was with only one wide receiver to throw to. OBJ will be great again and that will draw attention away from impressive rookie 2nd round pick Sterling who I expect to have close to 70 catches for close to 900 yards. I’m not a believer that Victor Cruz has anything left to offer but I hope I’m wrong. If I am right, the Giants to have some young guys who impressed in camp and preseason and won jobs and could add value at the receiver position. A quality second reviver though could really improve the offense.
That is why despite a below average running game, the Giant’s will eventually learn to use short passes as a running game substitute and move the ball enough to compensate for the poor offensive line play.
When the preseason began I was very bullish and expecting a 10-win team. When I watched the preseason incompetence, I was down to 8 wins. Then I realized, that the defense will be good, and the offense was trying to accomplish certain specific goals rather than necessarily trying to win the football game, and that they will do what they need to do in the actual season to score 24 points a game. Then, when the Football gods injured Tony Romo and traded away Sam Bradford, the expected value went up by almost 1.5 wins and I am now predicting a 10 win season and a visit to the playoffs. I think I’m being objective and saying it as an analyst rather than a hopeful fan. The only reason I believe I am is that we have been accurate and not bullish for 2 years running. It’s been a long off-season and I’m looking forward to finally watching some Giants football.
Overall grade: B
This easily could have been an A-. After round 1 they did pretty well. They got players later than many predicted they would go and generally in positons of need. Matching value and need is what makes a good draft.
However to do well you need to be flexible enough to move up or down if need and value are not matching.
The Tunsil fall caught them of guard. They were certain that either Conklin or Floyd would still be there and they were both value /need guys. The Myles Jack fall was anticipated by many but also worked against them.
Both Tunsil and Jack were guys that the Giants didn’t feel they could take because they are scarred by their own personal experiences.
With Jack they recall the career of Kenny Phillips, the talented but knee injured former Giant first round selection. With Tunsil they were scarred by column favorite Will Hill, a very talented safety who they ultimately cut after he kept failing drug tests.
I would guess at least 25% of these players have smoked pot in college. Tunsil’s crime was getting his phone hacked.
The reason I fail them for their round 1 pick is not that they passed on Tunsil –who I do believe will prove to be a great pick for Miami. They failed because even if they were afraid of another Will Hill situation they should have traded the pick to someone who wasn’t. They had Apple rated higher than Hargreaves. Again, most don’t, but ill respect their scouting and evaluation. But again, if most didn’t he could have been available later.
It’s known the Jets offered their number 2 to get up to take the Giants 10th pick to take Tunsil. It is highly likely that Apple would have been around at 20 –but even if he wasn’t the Giants could have walked away with William Jackson, a cornerback that many had rated higher than Apple and Cody Whitehair, one of the top rated Guards in the draft or linebacker like Deion Jones. Certainly Whitehair more than makes up for any gap they would think exists between Apple and Jackson. If they had done that their draft would have been considered to be an A- at least.
Apple may turn out to be a good player but nobody had him going that high. There is the other issue that both of the Giants presumptive choices were known so that teams traded up to the two slots ahead of them.
I do like most of what they did with the rest of the draft. I like the idea of a third receiver and a third cornerback being taken because Jerry Reese is right about one thing. If you have 2 you are one short. In today’s NFL 3 effectively start at every position. The giants’ offense could be potent this year.
Sterling Shepard offers a legit second option and should benefit from attention on Odell Beckham, and if Victor Cruz comes back to anything close to old form defenses will have a tough time keeping up.
Darian Thompson was someone people had projected as high as late in the first round before a bad combine work out and is also a need position. BJ Goodson could be the key to the draft. The giants have needed a middle linebacker for years. He was productive in college and is strong against the run. He won’t be on the field on passing downs. Paul Perkins the RB from UCLA also put up great college numbers. People say he is a bit small but he is only 7-10 pounds less than most others and Jerrell Adams was one of the more highly ranked TEs in the class. All could wind up contributing this year. Shepard is the one most likely to be a big contributor.
Having another weapon with OBJ will be big for the offense. Ignoring Reese’s talent evaluation skills, he clearly is ill equipped to run a draft. How other value talent is important to knowing value. He has never showed acumen for this.
Yes, it appears that the Giants materially overpaid to bring talent to their defense. And they may have However they materially improved their defense.
And the numbers they paid may not be as crazy as it seems and as crazy as they have been criticized for ultimately the price of anything is where supply meets demand at a moment in time.
The cap going up materially means that teams were flush with cash and since the talent on this year’s market was finite and not bigger than a typical year with was a sellers’ market.
Having said that the increased cap and projections for increased cap cause an inflationary effect that will make these contracts look more reasonable.
Remember the criticism of the Eli Manning contract extension a couple of years ago. Now think about that relative to the pricing of a Brock Osweiler or Kirk Cousins and you realize what inflation does to perceptions over a short period of time. Eli is arguably a bargain now.
They are not just spending 2016 dollars. They are spending 2020 dollars and those dollars will be devalued.
In terms of talent, Damon Harris will be a huge upgrade over the horrific DT talent of last year turning a weakness into a strength.
Combined with Johnathan Hankins the Giants should have a good run defense.
That alone helps the pass defense as it's easier to defend a third and six over a third and three.
Combine that with Olivier Vernon massively improving a pass rush and making JPP into a second / complimentary rusher makes a lot of sense.
Adding a very good corner in Jenkins which gives the Giants two good covers allows them a much better pass defense.
The draft has a few good options at the linebacker spot to take at number 10 to help the line backing crew
At safety Collins should improve in year 2 and the free safety which was a bad problem last year can at least be helped with the return of various players who were injured in 2015. Bennett Jackson looked good in pre-season and Nat Berhe looked good in limited time in 2014.
The Giants still need to add at least one if not two offense lineman but have the cap space still to do it.
The Giants managed to once again snatch defeat from the claws of victory.
The biggest preventable mistake this time was Coughlin electing to go for it on 4th and 2 from the 4 yard line instead of taking the easy field goal, which would have required 2 touchdowns for the Jets to win. Coughlin stood by his decision after the game which is not surprising as he stood by all his other stupid decisions this year.
Coughlin has won two Superbowls. He is also organized, a good motivator, decent talent evaluator and had decent overall game plans. What he is completely incapable of doing is using expected value calculations to help determine the best course of action. Where this normally manifests itself is with poor clock management. This time it was this wrong decision. Ironically, his inability to calculate expected value generally leads him to him not being aggressive enough, particularly down at the goal line. These were different circumstances. Their offense was not able to move the ball at all. Running the football was not a viable option, and the field was tight making it difficult to run real patterns for the receivers.
Manning to Beckham is amazing, and I’d love to see what that looks like with a real offensive line and a legitimate number 2 receiver (who may or may not turn out to be Victor Cruz next year).
Despite the mediocrity of the NFC East, given the remaining schedule it’s hard to see the Giants making it into the playoffs.
The Giants did well in addressing their needs in the 2015 draft.
As we wrote in our preview their 2 primary needs were offensive line and safety. It was unfortunate that Brandon Scherff was gone by the time of their pick. It left them in position of having to overdraft Flowers. He was their highest rated lineman but couldn't be the highest rated player. It would have been good to trade down in the first and still come away with Flowers or a similar talent. If occulting there it was who they needed to go with as no safety was worth drafting there and no defensive lineman would have been a good fit for a 4-3 defense.
They did what they needed to do in the second round to land the best safety in this safety-deprived draft. Landon Collins will immediately improve their run defense and should be adequate against the pass. Giving up a 4 and a 7 to get him was a virtual necessity given their depleted safety ranks.
They were then fortunate to fill their next biggest need in the third round by drafting Owamagbe awakens a solid defensive end, who could also make a real contribution as a rookie.
They gave up their 4th in a trade to get Collins and the rest of the draft is unlikely to bring a real contributor.
Getting three real contributors at positions of need makes this a successful draft.
Ari has been an avid Giants fan since 1979. He attends many home games and has attended the Giants last 2 Superbowl victories. This blog will talk about anything related to the New York Giants. Ari also blogs about the New York Knicks, at http://www.ariglassknicksblog.com